We here in the northern hemisphere have reached the long, cold, bleak period of the year. January and February; after the festive holidays, the sun still setting early, the air biting our faces, local produce significantly diminished, trees are mostly bare, viruses breeding everywhere… These are the months when SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can take it’s toll on our emotional and physical health.
Enter the majestic Pine. The Pine has become one of my favorite trees over the past few years. I have quite a few giants in my backyard and they emit a certain kind of peace. In the summer, the scent of the warm, sticky resin fills the air with a rich perfume. The needles whisper in the wind. Right now, their branches gather white snow beginning to glow in the sunset. The bright green of their needles comforts and reminds me of better days during this time of bitter cold.
Pine was used by the natives of this land for generations. The needles are full of vitamin C; much more so than orange juice! It is said that the natives taught the white pioneers how to make Pine Needle tea to ward off scurvy! The pitch, from old and new wounds on the tree, can be heated to make a resin. This resin can draw out splinters and is antiseptic. It can be applied to cuts and sores, and coated on the chest for pneumonia. Pine needle tea is used for bronchial conditions, tonsillitis, and laryngitis.
The tea is quite delicious with a gentle flavor that even most picky children love! It is quite an empowering activity, for young ones to get to know the earth around them. It is a kind of magic that many children do not get to experience anymore. Wildcrafting your own food and medicine is a great family hobby.
***This tea is not recommended for pregnant women as it can cause miscarriages.
Now for the fun part! How do we make the tea? Easy, peasy lemon squeezy.
First, you need to find a Pine tree. Make sure it is not near a road way or any place where they spray chemicals. White Pine is easy to identify as it’s needles grow in bundles of 5 as in the photo below.
***DO NOT harvest from the Yew tree as it is toxic. Always do your research before you ingest any wild plant!
It is best to stay away from the following trees as well.
- Ponderosa Pine (also known as Blackjack, Western Yellow, Yellow and Bull Pine),
- Lodgepole or Shore Pine,
- Common Juniper,
- Monterey Cypress
Next, gather a bundle of needles. A handful will do for a couple of cups of tea. Chop the needles and bruise them a little. I usually just use my fingers to tear them into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.
Then, put about a tablespoon of the chopped needles in a mug and pour in boiling water. Let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. The needles should fall to the bottom of the mug.